One of the best parts about working in public relations and corporate communications is helping executives say things in a manner that is clear, truthful, and to the point. Although my section on this blog is called "The Spin," I never liked the term "spin doctor" unless it was associated with a pocketful of Kryptonite.
Still, it's always fun to have those "what if" moments. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like if CEOs really said what was on their minds, without worrying about corporate communications professionals mopping up their messes. How cool would it be if top executives could say whatever they wanted and I wouldn't have to worry about a journalist calling me for quotes or sound bites? The CEO would take care of my job for me!
So let's imagine Investor Uprising hosting a get-to-know-you gathering with some of the world's leading CEOs, chairpersons, and directors to discuss top corporate communications issues. Here is what I fantasize we'll hear. Because when given the opportunity, it's amazing what people really say (and that is the truth). Among the excerpts:
Investor Uprising: Hey, Eric Schmidt! Good to see you. How is Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) dealing with its myriad issues with the Federal Trade Commission? We have to think this is weighing down on you as you look for ways to grow Google's core business...
Eric Schmidt: "Yeah, not exactly the way I want to spend my time these days. That's OK. We're Google. We're smarter than the average bear, not to mention bigger. For that matter, we oversee more of the animal kingdom than any other search outfit. Yahoo? Bing? Blips on the radar.
IU: What do you think will happen if the FTC gets its way?
Schmidt: You didn't hear me. WE'RE GOOGLE. What's going to happen? The FTC limits some of our search prowess. We'll make up the business and revenue from somewhere else. What's the FTC going to do -- not let their employees use Google on their PDAs or in the office? I tell you what -- if the FTC gets its way, we'll remove any search term related to "FTC" from Google. No more searches on the FTC on Google. We'll remove three letters from Google's alphabet.
IU: C'mon Eric. You can't be serious. So you're OK with the FTC essentially handing more business to Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) and using Bing as a search engine?
Schmidt: You're kidding, right? Bing stands for "But It's Not Google." Microsoft did us a favor with that name. It got the social media community to help our cause.
IU: Speaking of social media, I see Andrew Mason from Groupon near the bar. Gotta go, Eric. Hey Andrew, we heard your version of Billy Joel's "Honesty" at the South by Southwest Interactive festival in Austin. You are quite the musician. Can you sing us a song tonight?
Andrew Mason: Glad to help. This quiet period thing is hard. Here's a song that you all may know:
Start spreading the news, we're loaded today. We're going to own a part of it, New York, New York...
IU: Uh, thanks Andrew. Can't wait to hear from you and the spokescat during the IPO... Hey, can it be? Steve? Steve Jobs? Hey, Steve, how are you? You don't come to this sort of thing unless Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) has a big announcement.
Steve Jobs: Thanks for letting me swing by. I thought I would tell my fellow CEO friends that we are getting into the same businesses they're all in. It's part of a new Apple strategy for corporate domination.
IU: You can't be serious.
Jobs: That's what people said when we released the iPod. That's what people said when we released iTunes. And today, we launch our latest endeavor: iCame, iSaw, iConquered...
OK, just to be clear -- Investor Uprising didn't host any event. These people I quoted didn't say these things (as far as I know). I merely assumed it was what they might say, given a chance to speak without corporate filters. But the next time you read comments from any executives in the media, in analyst reports or anywhere else, think about this. There's often a big difference between what people want to say, what they mean -- and the safer, less controversial middle ground.